On February 22nd of this year, 7-Eleven Hawaii opened its doors in the Lawai neighborhood. Residents were all too familiar with this particular location as it echoes the history of the Matsuura Family – our benchmark of convenience for this area.
For more than half a century ago, the Matsuura brothers, Sakai and Masa departed their employment from the Lawai cannery and began a journey with their neighbors in mind. They leased a parcel of land from the cannery and opened their first general store. This was their first venture into convenience retail. They operated this store with much praise from residents.
In 1970, the brothers decided to relocate and purchase the location that 7-Eleven Hawaii operates today, at 02-3687 Kaumuali’i Highway. At the time, this particular piece of land was swamp land. Masa and Sakai had to fill and pave it before Sakai could build their general store. Once the store opened its doors, residents used it as their neighborhood grocery store.
Sakai and Masa were always influenced by their father. He always wanted to find ways to do more for the Lawai community. From their first store, their father asked that Sakai be a postmaster- and it was not for a career move. The purpose was to fulfill a gap in Lawai– at the time, there was no post office servicing the area. So Sakai did just that, then opened a post office that is still in operation to this day.
The “Matsuura Store” became the center of the community. Although it was a business, people came first. They were open 365 days – much like 7-Eleven. They earned the trust and the loyalty of their customers in many ways. They had an honor system whereby customers would post what they owe on the wall and the family entrusted that they would reconcile the debt. If the post office is not open, they made sure that customers could pick up their packages at the General Store. They cashed checks for construction workers. They sold anything that the customers needed – they sought to be a successful business built on their customers’ loyalty, honesty and trust. That model has lasted decades and four family generations.
There is one sweet tradition that the Lawai residents cannot get enough of – even its visitors. What could that be? Manju! Sakai saw a manju recipe in the newspaper and tinkered with it. His final recipe was well received by residents – often sold out and phone orders multiplied. Aside from the bento, Spam® musubi (they had a special preparation) and other items – what residents came to the store for was the sweet and ono manju!
Fast forward to 2017, 7-Eleven Hawaii has huge shoes to fill with the manju and most especially the service. I sat with Jane (Masa’s daughter), her two daughters and grand-daughter. Their stories of the brothers gave me a heightened sense of community in Lawai. And that is what we aim to be – the “Matsuura Store” that Masa and Sakai established including the sweet touch that their legacy is made of – not only manju, but most importantly, their love for their customers. Masa and Sakai Matsuura are true pioneers of convenience. Their legacy will live on in Lawai.